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12 Things About Marie Curie That Prove She's One of the Most Influential Women Ever

Updated September 23, 2021 56.1k views12 items

Marie Curie (also known as Madame Curie) was born Marie Sklowdowska in Warsaw, Poland, in 1867. At the time, Poland was a Russian territory, and residents had to abide by Russian rules, which included speaking Russian in schools (not Polish) and not publicly showing any pro-Polish sentiments, which wound up hurting Curie's family, as it prevented her schoolteacher father from getting a good-paying job.

Curie's early home life was interrupted by the death of her mother in 1878, when Curie was only 10. After this, Curie's father enrolled her in a tough school, where she excelled in mathematics and science. She went on to work as a tutor before attending college in secret. The life of Marie Curie was not easy, but after moving to France as a young adult, she went on to become one of the first famous female scientists

Tragically, one of the most important women in scientific history sacrificed her life for her work when she died of anemia caused by a lifetime of exposure to radiation.

  • She Had A Close Personal And Professional Relationship With Her Husband

    Photo: Nobel Foundation / via Wikimedia Commons

    Marie Curie and her husband, Pierre, were married in 1895, one year after they met. He was eight years older than she, 36 to her 28 years old. They reportedly had a close and happy relationship, and the pair remained married until his accidental death in 1906 as a pedestrian struck by a horse-drawn carriage.

    Despite their close partnership, neither was a romantic. Marie wore a simple blue dress to their civil wedding ceremony and then wore it for years after while working in the lab. 

    The two shared many hobbies, including bicycling and travel, and had two daughters, though Marie also suffered a miscarriage that left her depressed.

    Marie remained devoted to Pierre throughout their marriage and even after his death (despite having a scandalous relationship with a married former student, Paul Langevin, after she became a widow), and she wrote a biography of his life entitled Pierre Curie.

  • Einstein Wrote Her A Letter Of Support

    Photo: Benjamin Couprie / via Wikimedia Commons

    Although Marie Curie never became the first woman to join the French Academy of Sciences (her membership bid fell short by two votes), she did play an important part of several other international organizations. She was a member of the IUPAC Commission on Atomic Weights and was a founding member of the International Commission for Intellectual Cooperation, part of the League of Nations. She also was a member of the French Academy of Medicine, thanks to her work on mobile X-ray machines for World War I. 

    Curie had the honor of meeting many other scientific luminaries, including Albert Einstein, who wrote her a letter of encouragement after she was denied entry into the National Academy of Sciences.

  • Her Ashes Are Enshrined In The Pantheon

    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    The Pantheon was built in Paris, France, in the late 1700s in classical style, complete with a dome and columned front facade. Over the centuries, it served alternately as a church and as a federal civic building. Now it is a necropolis, or aboveground vault, filled with the remains of famous French citizens, usually scientists and intellectuals. One cannot simply elect to have their ashes placed in the Pantheon after death - you need to be chosen. Marie Curie is one such chosen person. After her death in 1934, she was cremated, but it wasn't until 1995 that her ashes were enshrined in the Pantheon. 

  • She Founded The Radium Institute To Find Therapeutic Uses For Radioactive Materials

    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    In 1909, a laboratory for Marie Curie opened up in Paris, France. The Institut du Radium, or Radium Institute, was a joint effort between Curie, the University of Paris, and the Insitut Pasteur. Now known as the Institut Curie, with two locations, one in Paris and one in Warsaw, Poland (Curie's hometown), it is a nonprofit institution dedicated to finding therapeutic and health-related uses for radioactive materials, most of which are used for treating and curing various types of cancer.